LEAGUE CITY — The City Council overwhelming approved a resolution that would prohibit city departments from cooperating with federal directives or requests to process or house undocumented immigrants.
The 6-2 vote came after more than 90 minutes of impassioned pleas from those for and opposed.
The night saw a surge of opposition from residents, some who called the resolution an “embarrassment,” a “political game” and an “expression of fear.”
Others, though, supported Councilwoman Heidi Thiess’ efforts to bring the resolution forward.
Others voiced their support, calling those who voted in favor “brave” and encouraging them to stand up to federal government’s “lawlessness” while referring to the resolution as “common sense.”
Only council members Joanna Dawson and Dennis O’Keeffe voted against the resolution. Council members Todd Kinsey, Dan Becker, Geri Bentley, Andy Mann and Mayor Tim Paulissen joined Thiess in support of the resolution.
The resolution’s passage was met with applause.
Of the 26 people who voiced their opinion of the resolution, though, about two-thirds were opposed.
“I am a son of an immigrant,” said George Barba, 78, whose family immigrated to the United States from Mexico before he was born. “I feel offended (by the resolution).”
Ellen Lancaster said “those expressing support for the resolution are expressing fear,” comparing it to opposition to the influx of Cambodian and Vietnamese people who came to the United States after the fall of Saigon. Lancaster said her family was among those to house a Cambodian family for six months.
Joel McMann, pastor at League City United Methodist Church, said passage of the resolution was “shutting our doors to children.” Noting that council members had a tough job “protecting the 80,000 residents of League City.”
“Sometimes the easiest thing to do is say no,” McMann said. “Bottom line, what are we going to do with children?”
There was a strong contingent in favor of the resolution. While outnumbered at the public comment podium, proponents of the resolution — mostly from the various tea party groups in the county — waved small American flags above their heads when fellow supporters spoke.
“The law is being broken — period,” Carol Alexander said in support of Thiess. “It takes a lot of guts and bravery to put this forward.”
She claimed an influx of undocumented immigrants would “cause chaos in our school system.”
“Don’t bring Third World problems into our community,” Tricia Vickers said.
Terri Hubbard called the resolution “common sense” and said she was “very proud of my council.”
Penny Ignacio dismissed those who claimed the resolution lacked compassion for those suffering.
“What I am concerned about are the health of your children and your grandchildren,” she said, directing her comments to the crowd.
“What about all our seniors? What about all our veterans? What about all our homeless? We are not taking care of them, and the money we are spending on all of these illegals is taking away from this.”
The city’s ever-growing Muslim community joined the chorus of those opposed.
Many were specifically offended by original language in the resolution, specifically noting an effort to prevent attacks from terror groups and singled out “radical Islamic terror groups.”
“We are a Muslim family, we take pride in our faith,” Dr. Suhail Alsahli said. “We feel disgraced (by the language). There’s many, many other terrorist groups. Terrorists have no religion.”
Even after Thiess said she changed the language to Islamists terrorist groups, those who spoke with The Daily News after the meeting said the language still sought to single out a group of people based on faith.
What, if any, affect the resolution would have on life in League City was unclear. Paulissen confirmed that it was more of a message to the federal and state governments to take action on the country’s growing immigration problem.
City Manager Mark Rohr said he had not received any requests from federal agencies to house undocumented immigrants in the city.
Thiess maintained the resolution was aimed at getting before any requests. She reiterated that her support was in part to give encouragement to other municipalities to follow League City’s lead and stand up to federal authorities.